Meet Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s top presidential candidate

TAMPA, Fla. — The Associated Press offers a quick guide to Iranian hard-liner Ebrahim Raisi, who is considered a leading candidate to succeed current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. His sister Zarein Raisi and brother Ebrahim Raisi are also running as candidates in Iran’s presidential elections, scheduled for May 19, Iran.

Q: How old is Ebrahim Raisi?

A: The 57-year-old is originally from Tehran, but was educated at universities in the United States and Britain. After graduating with a master’s degree in history from Ohio State University in 1991, he worked as a family lawyer. In 1994, he was selected as prosecutor for Tehran’s most notorious prison, Evin. In 2002, he founded his own law firm, Raisi and Associates, and has been in charge of a handful of projects for the Iranian government.

Q: What is Ebrahim Raisi’s background?

A: Raisi has studied a number of historical figures and events, including Brutus and Julius Caesar, Napoleon and the Ottoman empire. He has also studied Shiite Islam. On television he discusses how Imam Mahdi, a religious figure who is believed to return to earth and rebuild the Shiite empire, can act as a successor to Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. He has also called for ending sanctions and telling nuclear negotiators he is not ready to give in. He supports Hezbollah’s military actions in Syria and backs both Assad and Hezbollah.

Q: Who is Ebrahim Raisi’s wife?

A: He has two daughters. His oldest daughter, Sahar Raisi, is married to Mostafa Alizadeh, who is connected to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and a former provincial police chief. His youngest daughter, Sanaa Raisi, is married to Dr. Ardeshir Hosseinabadi, a dentist who is connected to Iran’s judiciary and once served as an adviser to Iran’s intelligence service.

Q: What does Ebrahim Raisi say is his ideal living arrangement?

A: “Living happily ever after, where you have different lifestyle but you’re happy. I live a happy lifestyle with my wife and our family,” he told Iranian expatriates in New York in 2016.

Q: How does Ebrahim Raisi perform in polls?

A: Although he was initially considered a long shot, early polls predicted he would place third in the official first round vote, behind Rouhani and Mohammad Khatami, another reformist president who served from 1997-2005. Former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a prominent hard-liner who recently announced he wouldn’t endorse a candidate, said he was dismayed to see Raisi fighting hard for a top job, especially when he should be spending time with his family.

Q: Does Ebrahim Raisi like soccer?

A: No. His only notable sports are golf and chess.

Q: Is there a reason why Ebrahim Raisi has not returned to Iran?

A: There is no hard and fast answer. In 2016, media reports quoted his aide as saying Raisi wanted to take some time to talk with U.S. officials. “The legal and economic process is going on in the United States. Ebrahim just wanted to wait until he gets an answer from our American friends so that he can make a decision.” If Raisi wins the election, he is likely to be sworn in as president before May 19, because the presidential election is entirely Islamic and the legislative elections are not until May 21.

Q: Who has endorsed Ebrahim Raisi?

A: Rouhani and former President Mohammad Khatami are standing with Raisi, along with Iran’s influential Revolutionary Guard commanders and the powerful Council of Experts, which chooses the country’s supreme leader.

Q: What role has Ebrahim Raisi played in Iranian politics?

A: In 2016, he appeared in a short movie about the 1983 U.S. Marines hostage crisis in Lebanon, co-produced by a Christian Lebanese businessman and Hezbollah-aligned journalist. The film, titled “White White” a reference to the Iranian symbol of black velvet which hides an unknown letter, came with a message for Iranian-Americans and “Arab friends,” urging their support of their “legitimate” Iranian counterparts.

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